Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2008 Report on International Religious Freedom - Montenegro

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

There were some instances of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 5,417 square miles and a population of 630,000. According to the 2003 census, more than 74 percent of the population is Orthodox, 18 percent is Muslim, and 3.5 percent is Roman Catholic. The remaining population is made up of members of other religious groups, agnostics, atheists, and "undeclared" persons.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

The Constitution provides for the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, as well as the right to change one's religion or belief and the freedom to, individually or collectively, publicly or privately, express that religion or belief by prayer, preaching, customs, or rites. No one is obliged to declare one's own religious beliefs. According to the Constitution, freedom to express religious beliefs may be restricted only if necessary to protect the life and health of citizens, public peace and order, and other rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

There is no state religion. The Constitution states that religious communities are separate from the state and are equal and free in the exercise of religious affairs. The work of religious communities is regulated by the outdated Law on the Legal Position of Religious Communities from 1977, which does not adequately address a number of topics.

The Government Commission for Political Systems, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister, is responsible for regulating relations between the state and religious communities. Official funds are available to support religious communities and are allocated according to individual requests submitted by the communities upon approval of the Secretariat General of the Government.

The Government observes Orthodox Christmas and Easter as national holidays. Orthodox believers may also celebrate the family patron saint's day at their discretion. Catholics are entitled to celebrate their Christmas, Easter, and All Saints' Day. Jews are entitled to celebrate Passover and Yom Kippur, and Muslims are entitled to celebrate Greater Bairam and Ramadan.

When a religious community is founded, it must register with the local police within 15 days. Religious communities are given the status of a legal entity.

Religious studies are not included in primary or secondary school curriculums.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report.

On June 28, 2008, the local authorities of Ulcinj removed a cross that local resident Djordje Zivanovic put up the same day on the deserted island of Liman near the old town of Ulcinj, claiming the purpose was to promote tourism. The press reported that the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) intended to consecrate the cross that day, as Saint Vitus' Day has long been considered a date of special importance for Serbs. Ulcinj Mayor Gzim Hadinaga stated that the cross might have negative consequences in the town, in which the majority of citizens are ethnic Albanians of Muslim and Catholic affiliation but which is known for its tolerance between different religious groups and nationalities.

At the end of April 2008, SPC Metropolitan Amfilohije accused Podgorica municipal officials of turning a former church in Zlatica near Podgorica into an archeological site. The SPC viewed this as an attempt to confiscate its property.

On April 15, 2008, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Media declined a request from the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage to approve the construction plan of a government-subsidized shrine to be built next to the existing SPC Monastery of Cetinje. The shrine was intended to hold relics considered precious by all Christian followers; however, the Montenegrin Orthodox Church (CPC) expressed concerns over keeping the relics in a shrine next to the SPC monastery. The Ministry stated that the construction would violate the historic center of Cetinje, the old capital.

In February 2008 the Real Estate Directorate of Cetinje ruled that 20 local churches and 2 monasteries did not belong to the SPC but rather were the property of local villages. The CPC requested that authorities confiscate additional SPC property in Podgorica, Niksic, Danilovgrad, and Budva. SPC Metropolitan Amfilohije and pro-Serbian parties in the country accused the Government and Mico Orlandic, Director of the Directorate for Real Estate, of illegally seizing SPC property. They argued that the Real Estate Directorate was not competent to make judgments about the ownership of religious facilities. The SPC lodged an appeal with the Ministry of Finance, which supervises the Directorate for Real Estate. In May 2008 the Ministry of Finance overruled the decision of the Directorate for Real Estate and returned the 22 properties to the SPC.

Authorities prevented SPC Bishop Filaret, who resides in Serbia, from entering the country on three occasions during July and August 2007, based on his inclusion on a list of persons suspected of assisting war criminals. Bishop Filaret was allegedly associated with Hague Tribunal fugitives Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb war-time political leader, and Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander, during the 1990s and supported them publicly. Filaret was also suspected of helping to hide the two fugitives. Bishop Filaret went on a hunger strike to protest his exclusion from the country, and after 11 days the Government allowed him to enter under the supervision of local state bodies to perform religious ceremonies. In April 2008 Filaret stated that he no longer had difficulties travelling to Montenegro because he informed the Interior Ministry of his visits beforehand.

By the end of the period covered by this report, the Ministry of Economic Development had not implemented the decision of the former Urban Planning Ministry to remove a Serbian Orthodox church from the top of Rumija Mountain in the southern region of the country.

The reis (leader) of the Islamic community noted that Muslim prisoners had difficulty in receiving halal food, such as meals without pork. However, prison officials claimed that they offered appropriate food conforming to religious restrictions. The Government did not allow Muslim women to wear headscarves when photographed for official purposes.

The SPC accused the Government of delaying the return of SPC property confiscated by the Yugoslav government after World War II. Press reports claimed that up to one third of the country's territory, including adjoining forests, orchards, and other areas, could be part of these claims. The Catholic Church also announced claims on property in several locations. Reis Rifat Fejzic expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that the law concerns only claims for property expropriated after 1945, arguing that significant Islamic community properties had been confiscated earlier. The law on restitution envisages that property confiscated from religious communities will be regulated by separate legislation; however, no such legislation has been adopted. Religious communities may file their claims for restitution, but no action on the religious communities' claims may be taken under the existing law. At the end of the period covered by this report, various religious groups had filed five claims for restitution.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There were some instances of societal abuse and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice; however, religion and ethnicity are intertwined closely throughout the country, and it was difficult to categorize such acts as either primarily religious or ethnic in origin.

In April 2008 the president of the Tuzi chapter of the Islamic Community of Montenegro was assaulted by unidentified persons. Islamic community leader Reis Rifat Fejzic stated that the perpetrators were linked to the Wahhabi sect of Islam.

During the night of September 21-22, 2007, a plaque identifying the Islamic Community of Montenegro office space in Bar was damaged by stones. Police were unable to identify the perpetrators. Islamic Community representatives reported that it was the fifth time someone had damaged the sign designating the place where local Muslims gather for prayer and social functions.

During the night of August 9-10, 2007, a bomb exploded in Podogorica's New Martyrs' Church of the SPC. Police conducted an investigation but did not arrest any supsects.

Tensions continued between the SPC and the CPC. The two groups continued to compete for adherents and made conflicting property claims, but the disagreements were not marked by significant violence. On September 17, 2007, the SPC Metropolitanate in Montenegro filed criminal charges against CPC Metropolitan Mihailo and the president of the CPC church board, Stevo Vucinic, for attempting to trespass in an SPC-owned church in Cetinje in April 2007. The SPC accused the CPC leaders of "spreading religious and national hatred." At the end of the reporting period, there were no reports of action taken on the case.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights and ethnic and religious tolerance throughout the country. U.S. embassy officials met regularly with leaders of religious and ethnic minorities, as well as with SPC and CPC representatives, to promote respect for religious freedom and human rights.

Reis Rifat Fejzic visited the United States through the International Visitors Leadership Program in 2007 to examine the role of faith-based groups and religious activism in the United States and how they are integrated into U.S. society. On October 3, 2007, the Ambassador hosted an iftar reception in Pljevlja to address religious freedom. On the same day, the Ambassador announced that the Embassy had funded the restoration of the fountain of the Husein Pasha Mosque in Pljevlja.

Topics: Serb, Orthodox Christian, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Religious minorities, Religious persecution, Religious discrimination, Freedom of religion,

Montenegro Asks Abu Dhabi Mar To Elaborate on Its Bid for Bijela Shipyard by Feb 10

PODGORICA (Montenegro), January 21 (SeeNews) - Montenegro has asked Abu Dhabi Mar, the sole candidate to buy 61.57% of its biggest ship repairer Jadransko Brodogradiliste Bijela, to elaborate on its bid by February 10, Podgorica-based Vijesti daily reported on Wednesday.

Abu Dhabi Mar has offered to pay 4.0 million euro for the majority stake and to invest at least a further 22 million euro, Vijesti reported.
Should Abu Dhabi Mar (www.abudhabimar.com) fail to elaborate on its business and social plans for the shipyard it wants to acquire, their offer will be rejected, which would also mean a failure of Montenegro’s third attempt to sell it, Vijesti said.

Officials from the government's asset-selling agency were unavailable to comment.
Montenegro opened the tender for the shipyard in November after its second attempt to sell Bijela failed in June when the first-ranked bidder, a consortium comprising Channel Islands-registered C&S.I and Mercury Distribution, and the second-ranked bidder, a consortium of Russian mine sweeper repairer Avangard Shipyard and Avangard Bank, both withdrew from the sale talks.

C&S.I and Mercury Distribution withdrew due to an ongoing litigation against the Montenegrin shipyard by Greek company Zambounis, launched after a Zambounis tanker partly sank in the Montenegrin port of Bijela while awaiting repairs. The privatisation agency did not say why the second-ranked bidder had quit the talks.
C&S.I and Mercury Distribution had offered to pay 7.1 million euro ($9.3 million) for the majority stake and to invest a further 40 million euro in the shipyard. Avangard had offered to pay 4.0 million euro for the stake and to invest a further 30 million euro.

Jadransko Brodogradiliste (www.asybijela.com), set up in 1927, is located in the Adriatic town of Bijela. It is completely equipped for repairing and reconstructing ships and other vessels, of all types and for all purposes, of up to 120,000 deadweight tonnes. It has two floating docks of 250 metres and 184 metres in length, respectively, and an operating wharf of 1,120 metres.

The remaining stake of 38.43% in the shipyard is in the hands of minority shareholders.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Montenegro's Albanians seeking autonomy in areas inhabited by them.

As parliamentary elections near in Montenegro, much speculation is surfacing in regions heavily populated with Albanians that the minority’s status quo is not acceptable, especially in a country that has repeatedly assured that sociopolitical conditions would improve the lives of its sizeable ethnic Albanian population since Montenegro declared independence in 2006.

Concerns most salient for Albanians living in Montenegro are fundamental minority protection and property rights, which have dominated the political landscape over recent years.

"We expect to have a territorial regime for Albanians to address their demands, where territorial autonomy would be the best solution," says the Tuz politician, Nikolle Camaj.

But the Albanian deputy in the Montenegrin Parliament, Vasel Sinishtaj, says the Albanians of Montenegro must show patience. "We must wait, such demands can not transpire in a year, where it has not happened for several years prior. Albanians must have faith and patience, asserts Sinishtaj.

Angjell Gojcaj, a resident Tuz, says that minority rights in Montenegro are not respected, despite the government’s assertions. "Montenegro has agreed to protect the rights of minorities and has claimed that arrangements are in order to accomplish this, but the opposite is happening as Albanians in Montenegro are not respected at all,” he says.

Regardless of the intent of such assertions, discussions surrounding the upcoming elections have left some to wonder whether Albanian politicians are serious about their comments, or whether they just testing the pulse of their constituents.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

EU says NO to Montenegro

Brussels, February 18 (MIA) - Montenegro's application for membership in the European Union, submitted last December by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, at the time President of the European Union Council, has been blocked in the Council before the European Commission had a chance to give its opinion on how much Montenegro was prepared for EU membership on the political, judicial and technical levels, Hina reports citing Agence Europe.

Several countries in the task force in charge of enlargement - primarily the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France and Belgium - are against forwarding the issue to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) and then to the Council.

A diplomat from one of the said countries said they believed that Montenegro still had work to do, as stated in the last regular Commission report, before its application could be seriously considered.

Applications for EU membership are usually automatically forwarded to the Council, which invites the Commission to prepare its opinion, a process which takes a year on average. Once it receives the EC's opinion, the Council starts a political debate on whether a country should be given candidate status.

The Czech EU Presidency, which has defined as one of its priorities continuation of the European integration of Western Balkan countries, has been requesting since the beginning of the year to put the issue on the Council's agenda, but to no avail, says Agence Europe.

The topic therefore will not be on the agenda of a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers scheduled for February 23-24, however, the ministers could discuss it informally during a lunch, when they talk about the Western Balkans.

The EC is not happy about this, Agence Europe reports.

It is important to adopt a pragmatic approach and consider every candidacy on its merit, on a case-to-case basis. Montenegro's candidacy has arrived. It is logical that we make the first step in the process and the Council should call on the Commission to prepare its position, said an EC official, underlining the technical nature of such a decision since a political debate will not start in more than a year, until the Commission prepares its position.

The 2008 Grand Corruption Watch List includes Montenegro

After its sovereignty was restored in 2006, Montenegro continues to face deep challenges with its overall governance and anti-corruption system. Extremely weak regulations undercut effective oversight of state-owned enterprises, police work is hampered by the politicization of the law enforcement agency, and ineffective whistle-blowing protections in the public and private sector are among the most notable problems. In addition, executive accountability is rated as very weak largely because basic conflicts of interest safeguards do not exist or are ineffective. "Executive [branch officials]," as our lead researcher observes, "frequently do not provide any explanations [for their policy decisions] and even try to hide decisions of the government."

The Global Integrity Report is a tool for understanding governance and anti-corruption mechanisms at the national level. Written by local researchers and journalists, the Report is characterized by an innovative, award-winning research methodology; a robust peer review process; and start-to-finish transparency.


Beginning in 2008, Global Integrity began looking for possible triggers of "grand corruption" in the countries assessed in the Global Integrity Report — countries where certain key anti-corruption safeguards were so weak that the risks of large-scale theft of public resources was greater than in most countries. We looked in our data for three red flags: extremely poor conflicts of interest safeguards in government, weak oversight over large state-owned enterprises, and poor or non-existent controls over the flow of money into the political process. Our rationale was simple: "follow the money" from commercial and special interests to politicians (through political contributions), and then assess whether those officials were sufficiently constrained by conflicts of interest regulations to effectively regulate the large state-owned enterprises whose revenue everyone is after. If those data (our Government Accountability, State-Owned Enterprises, and Political Financing categories) were all "Very Weak" (below 60), those countries were placed on the Watch List.

Being placed on the Watch List does not necessarily mean that grand corruption and looting of public resources will always take place in the country, but rather that the risks may be significantly higher than in most countries.
The 2008 Grand Corruption Watch List includes Montenegro

Integrity Indicators Scorecard – Overall Rating: VERY WEAK

Civil Society, Public Information and Media WEAK (66)
Elections WEAK (68)
Government Accountability VERY WEAK (54)
Administration and Civil Service VERY WEAK (37)
Oversight and Regulation VERY WEAK (55)
Anti-corruption and rule of Law VERY WEAK (56)

Methodology Overview:

Unlike most governance and corruption indicators, the Global Integrity Report mobilizes a highly qualified network of in-country researchers and journalists to generate quantitative data and qualitative reporting on the health of a country's anti-corruption framework. Each country assessment contained in the Global Integrity Report comprises two core elements: a qualitative Reporter's Notebook and a quantitative Integrity Indicators scorecard, the data from which is aggregated and used to generate the cross-country Global Integrity Index.

An Integrity Indicators scorecard assesses the existence, effectiveness, and citizen access to key governance and anti-corruption mechanisms through more than 300 actionable indicators. It examines issues such as transparency of the public procurement process, media freedom, asset disclosure requirements, and conflicts of interest regulations. Scorecards take into account both existing legal measures on the books and de facto realities of practical implementation in each country. They are scored by a lead in-country researcher and blindly reviewed by a panel of peer reviewers, a mix of other in-country experts as well as outside experts. Reporter's Notebooks are reported and written by in-country journalists and blindly reviewed by the same peer review panel.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Happy FIRST Birthday Kosova!

As Kosovo marks its first anniversary, many world leaders have congratulated the president of the newly born nation on the first anniversary of its historic declaration of independence.

On behalf of the American people, I congratulate you and the citizens of Kosovo on the first anniversary of the historic declaration of independence of Kosovo," said US President Barack Obama in his letter to the Kosovo president.

"I want to stress that the US will continue to support multiethnic, independent and democratic Kosovo in its efforts to take a meritorious place as a full member of the community of the states," he added.

Queen of the United Kingdom Elizabeth II and its Foreign Office Secretary David Miliband also wrote congratulatory letters to President Sejdiu.

The letter of Queen Elizabeth II stresses the progress that the Republic of Kosovo has made with the establishment of sovereign insitutions, democratic constitution, ratification of important laws, and the overcoming of many obstacles together with international partners.

Secretary Miliband says: "The Republic of Kosovo leadership have shown genuine committment on improvement of the well being of all citizens of Kosovo by establishing and enforcing the Constitution which includes equal rights and protection for the minorities, consolidation of the Kosovo state as an internationally independent actor, continuous recognition of independence, establishment of biletaral and diplomatic relations between the sovereign state of Kosovo and many world countries. This year I hope to see Kosovo continue its current path towards a stable and prosperous future. Kosovo and its neighbors in the Western Balkans share common aspirations for a European future. The United Kingdom is dedicated to work with all in the region to achieve this goal."

President of the Confederation of Switzerland Hans-Rudolf Merz also wrote a letter to Kosovo President Sejdiu. In the letter Swiss President Merz says: "In the name of the Federal Swiss Council, it is a pleasure for me to convery your Excellency our most cordial wishes in the occasion of your first anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Kosovo and I shall express my most sincere desires for your personal well being and the prosperity of your nation and your citizens. I am convinced that the trust and sincere friendship that exists between our nations will deepen in the years to come," says the letter of the Swiss President.

President of the Federal Republic of Germany Horst Kohler wrote a congratulatory letter to the President of the Republic of Kosovo.

In the first anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Kosovo, I express You and Your citizens in the name of my [German] citizens my most cordial wishes."

"During the last 12 months, your country, together with the international community, has made commendable progress carrying out important reforms. I assure you that Germany will continue to give the necessary support to the Republic of Kosovo."

A congratulatory letter has also come from the General Governor of the Commonwealth of Australia Quentin Bryce.

"On the National Day of the Republic of Kosovo, I convey to You, Your Government and the citizens of Kosovo, my cordial wishes on behalf of my Government and the Australian people. I am pleased the Australian government has established diplomatic relations on May 21 with your country. I feel pleased that Australia today congratulates Kosovo on its first anniversary as an independent nation."

Friday, February 13, 2009

DPS Campaign Promise

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Coalition Politics: Can Albanians Unite?

February 12, 2009: Montenegro's parliamentary election, which could pave the way for the country's drive for European Union membership, will be held on March 29.

The proposal to shorten the parliament's term was supported by representatives of the ruling coalition, which consists of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), while deputies of some centrist opposition parties abstained and deputies of the pro-Serb bloc voted against. Opposition parties said the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic wanted to secure re-election before the impact of the global financial crisis struck Montenegro.

The Albanian political parties, on the other hand, are faced with a unique challenge that may solve the long standing cleavages between them, that in the past led to severed votes and poor turnout. Several party leaders have proposed a united front, where all the major Albanian parties would unite and form a coalition block that could possibly secure more seats for them in parliament.

President of the Albanian Alternative Party, Vaselj Sinishtaj said that he expected all five Albanian parties to form a coalition for the upcoming election, and in the process of uniting the parties, there is a good chance that a “single political organization” will be conceived down the road.

“Bearing in mind the number of Albanians who live here, one party would be a very good thing in every aspect of life and work in favor of our genuine needs; do not expect such changes to happen overnight, or even before the elections, but for the next few years it will appear as a real need, and therefore the move towards realizing this need requires action now,” Sinishtaj told the daily newspaper Dan.

He went on to point out that Democratic Union of Albanians (DUA) leader, Ferhat Dinosha, should change his policies and join this coalition, which would for the first time in recent memory create a force in Albanian party politics. Dinosha has long been an ally with the ruling DPS and has consistently voted along their party lines in almost all legislative policies. As a consequence, Dinosha has continuously been criticized by Albanians for not respecting their best interests, where in the past has even blocked major legislation sealing the fate of Albanians’ sociopolitical lives.

Leader of the Democratic League in Montenegro, Mehmet Bardhi, entertained the possibility of Albanians taking four seats in parliament. “This is certainly feasible,” Bardhi asserted, “but if we take three, it would also be a great accomplishment.”

Sinishtaj claims that through the DUA’s influence in the Malesia region, the DPS machinery is likely take at least one of those seats, and will therefore be a force to contend for a fifth term in office, thus rewarding Dukanovic and his entourage an unprecedented 20 years at the helm.

In principle, all five Albanian parties agree that a union among them is desirable, and will be strongly considered. A timetable for these talks have not been set but given the fast approaching election date, Sinishtaj warned that the party leaders have to act quickly.

Political Players

President: Filip Vujanovic - DLECG
Prime minister: Milo Djukanovic - DPSCG
The president is elected to a five-year term by popular vote.
Legislative Branch: The Skupstina Republike Crne Gore (Assembly of the Republic of Montenegro) has 75 members, elected to four-year terms by proportional representation.

Results of Last Election:

President - Apr. 6, 2008


Filip Vujanovic - Democratic Party of Montenegrin Socialists (DPSCG) 51.9%
Andrija Mandic - Serb List 19.5%
Nebosja Medojevic - Movement for Change (PZP) 16.6%
Srdan Milic - Socialist People’s Party of Montenegro (SNPCG) 12.0%
Assembly - Sept. 10, 2006


Coalition for European Montenegro
Democratic Party of Montenegrin Socialists (DPSCG)
Social-Democratic Party of Montenegro (SPCG) 41
Serbian List 12


Socialist People’s Party of Montenegro (SNPCG)
People’s Party of Montenegro (NSCG)
Democratic Serbian Party of Montenegro (DSSCG) 11
Movement for Change (PZP) 11
Liberals and the Bosniak Party 3
Coalition of the Democratic League of Montenegro
and the Party of Democratic Prosperity 1
Democratic Union of Albanians 1
Albanian Alternative 1

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

If x equals "Corruption", then y must equal "Economic Regression"

2009 Index of Economic Freedom

The 2009 Index is the first to assess Montenegro's level of economic freedom. The country's economic freedom score is 58.2, making its economy the 94th freest in the Index. Montenegro ranks 36th out of 43 countries in the Europe region, and its overall score is just below the world average.

Montenegro scores above the world average in trade freedom, fiscal freedom, monetary freedom, and business freedom. The economy has been relatively stable despite high fiscal deficits. The average economic growth rate during the past five years has been over 3 percent, but unemployment remains high at over 10 percent. The average tariff rate is moderate, but non-tariff barriers limit overall trade freedom. Monetary stability is relatively well maintained, and the flat income and corporate tax rates are competitively low.

Montenegro needs a stronger commitment to reform. External debt has been growing in recent years, and the institutional capacity to protect property rights and deal with corruption remains weak. Better budgetary control at all levels of government is necessary to target spending more effectively.

Let's look at some sombering specifics:

Obtaining a business license takes more than the world average of 18 procedures and 225 days. Regulations are inconsistent and non-transparent, and fees related to completing relevant procedures are high.

Montenegro's simple average tariff rate was 4.9 percent in 2006. Progress has been made toward liberalizing the trade regime, but some high tariffs, some import restrictions, weak implementation of non-transparent standards and regulations, weak enforcement of intellectual property rights, and corruption still add to the cost of trade

Total government expenditures, including consumption and transfer payments, are high. In the most recent year, government spending was estimated to be about 42.7 percent of GDP. Privatization has stalled, and necessary reforms have not been undertaken in energy and labor.

the government influences a few prices through state-owned enterprises; retains the right to control the prices of certain basic products; and regulates utility, energy, and transportation prices.

The constitution serves as the foundation of the legal system and creates an independent judiciary. Historically, the judicial system has been inefficient; judges are poorly trained. Sales of pirated optical media (DVDs, CDs, and software) and counterfeit trademarked goods (particularly sneakers and clothing) are fairly widespread. Procedures for enforcement of intellectual property rights are governed by recently enacted Laws on Civil Procedures.

Corruption is perceived as significant. Montenegro ranks 84th out of 179 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2007. There is a widespread perception of government corruption, particularly in the executive and judicial branches and especially with regard to the privatization of state-owned firms. Conflict-of-interest legislation requiring the disclosure of government officials' salaries and property has not been fully implemented, and many officials refuse to comply. Organized crime, especially the smuggling of gasoline and cigarettes, has long been present in Montenegro.

Montenegro's rigid labor regulations hinder overall employment and productivity growth, contributing to a persistently high level of unemployment. The non-salary cost of employing a worker is relatively high, and regulations related to the number of work hours remain rigid.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Montenegro Property Bubble Bursts

10 February 2009

BUDVA - An eerie silence prevails over dozens of construction sites on Montenegro’s coast after the collapse of a building boom fuelled by the Adriatic country’s independence.

On the cape Zavala, massive machinery has stood idle for several weeks at the construction site of the Mirax luxury holiday village, whose Russian investors have blamed the global financial and economic crisis.

Fresh construction sites have been abandoned and completed apartments await buyers in vain in the ex-Yugoslav republic of 650,000 inhabitants who were just becoming used to the sound of cranes and bulldozers.

Real estate trade has almost come to a halt, with agents struggling to sell the estimated 4,000 flats now on the market in the coastal tourist hotspot Budva, and 10,000 in the capital Podgorica.

Compared with 2007, the prices of flats along the Adriatic Sea coast have dived by around 50 per cent and are down 20 per cent in Podgorica.

In front of the municipal court in the coastal town of Kotor, where until several months ago people queued for hours for paperwork to seal property deals, there was no one waiting to obtain documents.

“I haven’t sold a single property for nine months, while during the real estate boom, I was selling eight per day,” said agent Dusan Stankovic.

Due to a lack of interest, Stankovic has closed down his Some Place Else agency in Kotor, whose UNESCO-listed old fort town made it popular among foreign buyers.

His agency dealt mostly with clients from Britain and Ireland, who during the 2006-2007 boom bought around 250 apartments from him in Boka Bay, the northernmost part of Montenegro’s small patch of coast.

“Now they want to sell the flats, since they have been burdened with loans they took putting mortgages on their overestimated properties in England,” Stankovic told AFP.

Although Stankovic said his colleagues dealing with Russian buyers might survive on the market, the agents warned these clients, who had a reputation for buying without even asking for prices, have also withdrawn.

The so-called “Russian invasion” increased the demand for property, and was blamed for exorbitant price rises.

Apartments and land were, until recently, priced from 3,500 to 10,000 euros ($4,500 to 12,800) per square metre. But in the past few months, a square metre in a Budva flat could only fetch 1,100 euros, while clients willing to pay up front might even pay 300 euros less.

The depressed property market has mostly halted construction, and the industry, which has played a significant part in the young nation’s economic growth spurt since independence in 2006, is faced with financial problems.

Global real estate agents Colliers International said it was ”not easy to give any forecast” on the future of Montenegro’s real estate and property industry.

“The main projects are only to be done and their realisation depends on recovery of the world financial market,” Colliers said in a statement.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Rochester Hills and Tuz Wrongly Served by Montenegro and U.S. Embassy


On Feb. 4, U.S. Embassy representative Alexandra Bonura donated school supplies valued at $10,000 to several schools in Tuzi on behalf of the people of Rochester Hills, MI, their Mayor Bryan K. Barnett, and his wife Corrin as part of the project “Two for Tuzi.” Mayor Barnet visited Tuzi last year, and upon his return he energized his community to help in providing school supplies for children in Tuzi. Families in Rochester Hills bought two sets of school supplies, and one set was donated to the students in Tuzi.

This donation shows that the U.S.-Montenegro relationship goes beyond traditional diplomacy to include people to people exchanges, said Alexandra Bonura.

There were several assertions made in this report that are misleading. Let us examine the real facts:

1. U.S. Embassy Rep Bonura did not donate the school suppliers, not even on behalf of Rochester Hills. This initiative was thought through, presented, purchased, collected, packaged, and delivered by the City of RH and the Albanian-American Community of Greater Detroit, an important fact that the embassy fails to point out. What else should be pointed out is that the U.S. embassy ensured that the supplies would reach its destination without delay once they arrive. Conversely, the opposite happened (read the concluding statement).

2. The phrase “Two for Tuzi” is incorrect. The project, initiated by Corrin Barnett, was coined “Two for Tuz”, which is the Albanian spelling for a city overwhelmingly populated by Albanians. Although Mrs. Barnett knew very well the official Montenegrin spelling, she and her husband opted to use the Albanian in respect to the local population.

3. The families in RH who purchased supplies for Tuz largely centered on the Albanian-American community of St. Paul’s Albanian Catholic Church & Community Center, who raised several thousand dollars to support Mrs. Barnett’s endeavors. These members share a deep-rooted affinity given they all have family members and personal-owned land in Tuz and the surrounding Malesia region.

4. The “people-to-people exchanges” that the embassy representative refers to here is also misleading. The relationship is a direct and innate result of the sister city relationship between RH and Tuz. If it were not for the exposure Mayor and Mrs. Barnett provided to his own constituency, many of his citizenry would not know where Montenegro is on the map. Furthermore, this relationship was conceived by the collected efforts of Albanian community leaders in Michigan who witnessed first hand the neglect and deterioration of the infrastructure and school system in Tuz, where students were denied basic school supplies enjoyed in other regions of Montenegro.

What is most disconcerting about this whole story was the struggle to get the supplies to Tuz. The supplies and transportation was paid entirely by the City of RH, and involved an objective to get the supplies over to the Malesia region in time for the holidays. This goal was achieved and the supplies arrive at the port of Bar on Christmas Day. However, due to politicizing and unnecessary red tape, the port authorities delayed delivery of the supplies and they sat idle for another 40 days with no real cause or reason.

Montenegro's Djukanovic says relations with Serbia have soured

02/02/2009, PODGORICA, Montenegro -- Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said on Sunday (February 1st) that relations between Podgorica and Belgrade are at an "unacceptably" low level and that Serbia appears unwilling to accept a new ambassador from Montenegro. Podgorica's ambassador was expelled last year after Montenegro recognised Kosova's independence.

Djukanovic said on Sunday that the procedure to appoint a new ambassador will not begin until Belgrade makes clear the diplomat is welcome. Djukanovic also announced that Montenegro will soon establish diplomatic relations with Pristina and will choose "the model of representation" shortly after that.

(Tanjug, B92 - 01/02/09)